Christmas Traditions in Venezuela

Almost mandatory for every home at Christmas in Venezuela is a nativity scene that can be found in the living room, hallway or dining room. Making the display more elaborate every year is a project in which the entire family participates. In the past, on Christmas Eve, presents were placed close by. Nowadays, many families also set up a Christmas tree, around which they put their presents. Children write letters to Baby Jesus, thanking Him for all of the blessings they have received and asking for certain gifts or toys for Christmas. Baby Jesus brings gifts to the children on December 25.

Many families will attend a 5:00 a.m. Christmas mass which is called “Misa de Gallo” (Mass of the Rooster) because of the early hour that it is held. Parents will take their children ice skating in the public plazas (squares) and parks until the wee hours of the morning.

Among the Christmas traditions for the Venezuelan people are tables festively adorned for a meal including “hallacas.” Hallacas are dumpling-like, made of corn meal filled with beef, chicken, pork, raisins, olives, green and red peppers, capers, and pickled vegetables. The filling is put in roasted plantain leaves, wrapped in the shape of a package, tied with string, and boiled for two hours. The whole family, under the direction of the parents, participates in this elaborate preparation of hallacas.

The “gaitas” that are prominent during the Christmas season in Venezuela generate great excitement in the people. Gaitas are festive songs of Hispanic origin, combined with the African culture. When people talk about the “gaitero” rhythm, they are referring to the continuous amusement and enthusiasm that permeates the entire Christmas and New Year’s season. Gaitas are one of the most familiar expressions of the national folklore, since it invades the media, shopping centers and party halls in Venezuela.

Villancico Tradicional (Traditional Christmas song)
Miranda State, Compiled by Vicente Emilio Sojo

Niño lindo,
ante Ti me rindo.
eres Tú mi Dios.
Esa tu hermosura
ese tu candor
el alma me roba
el alma me roba me roba el amor.
Niño lindo,…
Con tus ojos lindos,
Jesús mírame,
y sólo con eso,
y sólo con eso,
me consolaré.
Niño lindo,…
La vida, bien mio, y el alma también
te ofrezco gustoso,
te ofrezco gustoso,
rendido a tus pies.
Niño lindo,…
De mí no te ausentes,
pues sin Ti, ¿qué haré?
Cuando Tú te vayas,
Cuando Tú te vayas,
llévame también.
Niño lindo,…
Adiós tierno Infante,
adiós, Niño, adiós,
adiós dulce amante,
adiós dulce amante,
adiós, Niño, adiós.

Beautiful child Jesus
At your feet I come and kneel
Beautiful child Jesus
You are my God
Your beauty and your candor
steal my soul
And steal my love
Beautiful child Jesus…
With your eyes so pretty
Jesus, look at me
and just with that
I will be comforted
Beautiful child Jesus…
My life, my beloved, and
my soul, too
I willingly offer to you
kneeling at your feet
Beautiful child Jesus…
Please don’t abandon me
for what would I do without you?
When you go,
Take me with you, too.
Beautiful child Jesus…
Good bye tender infant
Good bye child, good bye
Good bye my sweet and loving
Good bye child, good bye.